Tigers taking nothing for granted
Marshall County faces another large challenge Friday night when the Tigers (11-1) will have to beat a Spring Hill (7-5) team for the second time this season if they want to advance to the semifinals.
The Tigers beat the Raiders 49-12 on October 14 at Spring Hill.
The Raiders have played spoiler twice so far during the TSSAA state playoffs by knocking off number one seed and unbeaten Stone Memorial at Crossville during the first round before knocking off two-seeded Page at Rudderville last Friday night and are 5-2 in away games this year.
"Well it's so tough to beat a good team twice," Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. "Spring Hill is so athletic. Scary athletic, actually. Anytime you play a team with that many athletes it makes you anxious, but I feel our kids are itching to get ready for another really good Spring Hill opponent."
The Raiders' 7-5 record is a bit of a misconception as the Maury County squad lost to Page and eventual top-seeded David Lipscomb Academy by one point and have beaten 5A playoff participant Summit 25-20.
Spring Hill also had wins over 6A McGavock 47-15 and 5A Dickson County 56-46 before embarking on a mid-season four-game losing skid and they had to beat Lawrence County in the season finale to make the playoffs .
The Raiders won the Class A State Championship in 1986, but haven't been to the quarterfinals since making it to the Class A semifinals in 1992.
Since dropping down from 5A to 4A and into the same Region as the Tigers in the 2003, the Raiders have beaten Marshall County a single time out of 12 contests, a 42-25 victory in 2009.
Junior running back Dontae Smith has put the Raiders on his back during the 2016 playoffs, running for an eye-opening 524 yards on 50 carries, including a 315 yard rushing and 440 plus all-purpose yard performance against Page.
"We have to stop the running back first of all," senior D'Andre Brown said. "Once you stop the running back and wide receiver and make them start using weapons they're not used to using we should be able to get 'em real good like we did the first game."
The Raiders also feature former Centennial signal caller Blake Lovell, who threw for two touchdowns against Stone Memorial and tossed one and ran for another last week against Page.
Wide receiver Justin Odin needs no introduction as the junior has offers from the University of Tennessee and Kentucky among others.
"They're so long and athletic," Osteen added. "They're defensive line is so long and they can run well. They had two or three guys out the first time that we played them so they definitely think that they're better and much better equipped to play us this time around."
The Tigers continue to roll through its quest to bring home the first gold ball since the 1984 state championship season by beating its two playoff opponents 91-0 and scoring at least 40 points in nine out of its 12 games in 2016.
The Tigers have been averaging 44 points while allowing a dismal nine points per game this season.
The defense, led by Mr. Football Lineman of the Year finalist Cain McWilliams (78 tackles, 11 sacks, nine TFL) and J.Q. Haislip (62 tackles, four TFL, two INT) have held its last three opponents scoreless and only four have scored over 10 points while none have score 20 or more.
Jayshon Wilcox was all over the field against the Bobcats, leading the team with nine tackles and three tackles for a loss and four other Tigers added six tackles.
Tigers opponents have had to pick its poison on offense as Bryce Wallace has thrown for just under 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns while tossing just five interceptions, while both Jay Howard (1,180) and Tre Crutcher (1,210) have notched over 1,000 all-purpose yards for the receiving corps and five other wide outs have caught at least four catches. The running back position is even harder for an opponent to prepare for as Kamron Liggett (1,013) crossed over 1,000 yards on the season, but McWilliams led the Tigers with 61 yards and two touchdowns against Giles County and Brown tallied 258 rushing yards and two scores on the season.
Special teams continued to excel against the Bobcats as Tre Crutcher ran a 77-yard kickoff for a touchdown after having a 50-yard punt return called back for an illegal block and Caleb Estes kicked 33 yard field goal, went five-for-five on extra points and three kickoffs for touch backs.
"I'm pretty sure they'll have a game plan for us and we'll have a game plan for them as well," McWilliams said. "And you know we're gonna get their best game plan because they want to send us home. We just have to prepare for that and get ready the best that we can."